Baseball91's Weblog

March 26, 2010

The Sad Secular Truth

L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, criticized The New York Times for an article published March 25, 2010. The Italian editorial said that Pope Benedict had always handled such sexual abuse cases with “transparency, purpose and severity,” and accused the news media of acting “with the clear and ignoble intent of trying to strike Benedict and his closest collaborators at any cost.”

The Boston Globe did a series of report, uncovering The Truth which the Roman Catholic Church never was going to reveal. The Irish government has issued two reports, most recently the Murphy Commission report and earlier the report by the Ryan Commission, uncovering not so much prevalent child sex abuse as much as a cover up of crimes by the Catholic clergy.

For those of us who believe in the institution church, who question the motivations of television stations who run such stories during sweep weeks; for those of us who question the motivation of Jeffrey Anderson of Saint Paul, Minnesota who has gotten rich off the charitable contributions of Catholics; for those of us who wonder why such an advocate of justice was not serving society by working as a prosecuting attorney in such cases, in criminal court, there remains the issue of the cover up. There is an election in Germany in May. And so German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for an examination of sex abuse cases there, revisiting Statutes of Limitation and victims’ compensation for the more than 200 cases of alleged abuse, some dating back 50 years. This in a country that still has never dealt with those who were involved in Nazi atrocities, in Holocausts, or even much less when Jews still have not been compensated for properties taken from them. Maybe the German part of the cover-up story, the missing Truth and Reconciliation Commission which followed the Third Reich, played a part in this story.

It was on April 20, 2005 when Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was elected pope that I went to bed about as disappointed in a news event as I ever recalled. It is not true that Joseph Ratzinger had always handled such cases with “transparency, purpose and severity.” The institution church has lacked so much transparency on issues of cover-ups of sexual abuse, over so many years. About that position of Bernard Law in Rome since he left Boston. Obviously, he was rewarded by his friendship with Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in 2005. Cardinal Law is still there. Still a cardinal, now in Rome. Allowed to preside in the period between the death of a pope and the election of a new one, at St. Peter’s.

The universal church and freedom of worship. The universal church and freedom of the press. The universal church and THE TRUTH. Even a pope cannot escape truth. From the stories of the Irish Catholic paper, Intercom. The 1994 Intercom story when Father Kevin Hegarty was removed as editor of Intercom. after a December 1993 issue, with an article titled “Twenty Questions for the Bishops” challenging their handling of clerical child sex abuse. Then, less than 12 years later, an order to dismiss the editor of America magazine was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in mid-March 2005 when the Vatican office of doctrinal enforcement was still headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, according to The New York Times. In the period between the death of a pope and the election of a new one. At the time, several Catholic officials in the United States, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter, stated that under orders from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, American Jesuit Thomas Reese resigned on May 6, 2005 as editor of the Catholic magazine America because of published articles critical of church. (Some have suggested it was the American bishops who got Father Reese removed, a story much like Father Kevin Hegarty’s dismissal.) In the weeks around Father Reese’s dismissal, after the death of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI. His new job duties included a job description of infallibility on both matters of faith and morals. Popes have claimed infallibility on issues of morals since sometime in the 1850s.

Morals. It was a big world out there. And the universal church was everywhere. The record reflects that the Vatican does believe in a freedom of religion for everyone, but does not believe in a free Catholic press.

The former and the current Prefects of the Congregation of the Faith, the then former German Cardinal and now the Cardinal from San Francisco, have been overseeing all issues of sexual of abuse at least for the last 8 or 9 years. In his 23 years heading the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger spent his days in theological feuds with Eugen Drewermann and Hans Küng, and reprimanding liberation theology advocates in Latin America, not all that dissimilar to the ongoing witch hunt against the American sisters, instituted on behalf of his American supporters. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith was responsible for dealing with the reports of sexual abuse. It was part of the job description. A letter entitled De Delictis Gravioribus (about serious crimes), instructedall bishops in 2001 bishops to report EVERY case to the Vatican, but to keep such allegations confidential. De Delictis Gravioribus was made public in 2005. Along the way, in Munich, in Rome, and last week in Ireland, Joseph Ratzinger missed countless opportunities to tackle the issue of the cover-ups.

Swiss theologian Hans Küng admittedly is one of the enemies that Pope Benedict has made along the way. In his prior job. “There was not a single man in the whole Catholic Church who knew more about the sex-abuse cases than him, because it was ex officio (part of his official role ),” Swiss theologian Hans Küng said. That was what Prefects of the Congregation of the Faith had to do, looking at these cases every week. It was the old job. The wickedness part of the one to which he had been appointed. A job which Cardinal Ratzinger thought he had left behind, 5 years ago. The one where he was powerless because his old boss had his own ideas. The official role of a job where he had not started the cover-up. It had always been there. Cardinal Ratzinger from Germany had not done anything. It was the times he had been born into. It was all about the job he had been given. In the times that challenged everyone. A lot like the concept of original sin.

In a world where it was easier criticizing someone else, and the more than 200 cases of alleged abuse, some dating back 50 years, rather than addressing the political crimes where you had some power, when the atrocities involved millions of cases dating back to 75 years ago. But when you had to run for re-election, if you were prime minister of Germany.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, asserted that “someone is trying to undermine” the trust Catholics have in the church. Italian Archbishop Rino Fisichella of the Pontifical Academy for Life termed the criticism of Pope Benedict a “sign of violence and barbarity.” And “predictably,” writes John Allen at the National Catholic Reporter, the Vatican “bristled at efforts to use the Father Hullerman case to implicate Benedict XVI in the broader crisis,” around the globe. When the real story was about the sexual abuse in localities, the media was concentrating on the cover-up.

In the United States. In Canada. In Australia. In Ireland. Now being investigated in Germany. What is truly amazing is the patterns that repeated itself everywhere. If you were a long-time priest, you had heard confession. You had heard the same pattern of sins of men and women for every Saturday of your life. And if you were a bishop of course within the hierarchy of the institution, “the silence” had always been used within the operations of the Curia, like “the silence” was used within the Cosa Nostra.

John Paul II had presided over all of this, had presided over as the boss of the Prefect for the Congregation of Doctrine of the Faith –the Congregation responsible to decide issues of faith and morals. And yet all these people counting the days until John Paul II would be canonized. So what kind of culture, this Catholic culture, had this become? Under the leadership of the institution church by John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who ruled over bishops, archbishops, and cardinals? Under the leadership of the institution church who ruled over L’Osservatore Romano. The hierarchy that worried about advancement. What had been the real cause of these crimes? Why were the men who served as priests not allowed to marry? Like in the first thousand years? When marriage was a sacrament. Did sex crimes not come out of a natural born weakness, the human condition, when sexuality determined the future of the world? Were stories of the human condition based not on man’s inhumanity to man but rather on natural born weakness? And the Church of Rome tried, in a display of human arrogance, to make her priests super men, above the fray?

Vows of Silence by Jason Berry and Gerald Renner focuses on the life of a Dominican priest from the Midwest who became a Canon lawyer, and represented victims of the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the Mexican founder of the Legionaries of Christ, a religious order. Pope John Paul II suspended the investigation into the Rev. Maciel Degollado and the Legionaries of Christ. Father Maciel died in 2008 still a priest, having been ordered by the Vatican to live in seclusion. In January 2005, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger had re-initiated the investigation into Father Maciel Degollado who had sexually abused seminarians, 9 of whom had come forward, and also fathered several children. Chronologically this re-investigation was begun in the last 3 months of life for John Paul II. There was no conclusion drawn in the article, no reference to the sexual abuse issues, but The Atlantic Monthly noted, in a piece about Joseph Ratzinger a short time after his election as pope, that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger never visited John Paul II in the last 3 months of his life. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger did not have the power to over rule John Paul, who viewed the sexual abuse as one huge influence of the current powers of darkness, of a living Satan. Mysterium iniquitatis.

Many of these cases, most of the cases, seem to involve things that happened long ago. So with the incidents in Ireland came news in January 2010 of the actual quote of the Papal Nuncio in Ireland –with his statement ringing like a church bell in an empty church — that the going-on in Ireland were somehow inherent only to the island of Hibernia.

Sexual abuse of a child was a crime in Ireland. Along the way, no one asked whether the cover-up in Ireland would be a crime? Would the cover-up by people in Rome, who seem to think they are above human law, be a crime? In the secular world, crime superseded sin, on this earth. As the crimes were in the past, this all seemed like an “ignoble intent of trying to strike Benedict and his closest collaborators at any cost?”

Studies have concluded that the incidents of sexual abuse in American public schools by teachers occur with a frequency 2.5 to 3.0 times as often as with Roman Catholic clergy. For pecuniary reasons, the plaintiff bar has just been able to focus their litigation on the Catholic clergy because of the ‘holy than thou’ attitude portrayed by the Church of Rome for centuries. It is the people in the pews that have been asked to render verdicts in the courts, and then keep funding all of this. And Catholics have.

The story in 2010 is no longer about the cover-up but really about the poor leadership of John Paul II, a man who, according to a recent biographer, self-flagellated himself. God forbid that anyone question where the leadership of the church had brought the people in the pews. Garry Wills in the book Papal Sin wrote about the “structures of deceit” built into the modern papacy, which in every era has its own besetting sin. He wrote that today’s sin is intellectual dishonesty, since the papacy is incapable of admitting error on doctrinal matters. Wills’ theory will apply to make all Catholics apologists, now defending the cover-up.

Benedict XVI has written in the past that he prefers a leaner, smaller, purer church, and he is seemingly on a path to put his own beliefs into practice, until addressing the never ending cover-up. Somewhere along the way, the pope seems to have forgotten the purpose for what he was supposed to be working. His job description was supposed to include shedding light on the Way, the Truth, and the Light. In a modern world that has ignored Reconciliation as a sacrament, perhaps it was time for Benedict to ask forgiveness of his own part in all of this.

In other news from the Catholic News Service, a Polish church official, Father Jozef Kloch, has defended how the country’s bishops handle sexual abuse accusations against Catholic clergy following claims that victims of abuse have been widely intimidated and ignored. Dioceses and religious orders, Father Kloch told Catholic News Service, were required to submit documentation on abuse directly to the Vatican, as required under its 2001 instructions to the worldwide church. He said it was the responsibility of church officials in Rome to “evaluate their compliance with church rules.” Jakub Spiewak, president of the Kidprotect Foundation, which runs a hotline for abuse victims and seven separate child protection programs, called on bishops to follow the example of their colleagues abroad in adopting procedures for handling accusations. “The worst penalty a pedophile priest can generally expect here is to be moved to another parish.”

So it has been left to The Boston Globe, the Irish government, the Murphy Commission and the Ryan Commission, to reveal the truth about the Roman Catholic Church. The Church which had been so outrageously mismanaged, where funds –given with an intent for corporal works of mercy,to feed the hungry, sustain Catholic hospitals, educate the young in Catholicism beyond simple doctrine– have gone to the victims of child sex abuse, while the hierarchy continues the cover-up; and then works to canonize John Paul II. When was this alleged saint in all of this?

As most of us were as powerless as the Prefect for the Congregation of Doctrine of the Faith once had been, working for a Polish Pope with his claim to infallibility on issues of morals, with his old world belief in self-flagellation.

As the priesthood was being left to die, as a younger generation looked on from afar, most of us were as powerless as the Prefect for the Congregation of Doctrine of the Faith once had been. Because the old world belief in original sin, however poorly explained, was, in the age of computers, about the apple. Maybe the timing was right –in the year of the priest –to bestow an honor on Father Kevin Hegarty and Father Thomas Reese, two priest who took it upon themselves to explain part of the mystery going on around us, near the church. About the apple and all of its temptations. About the Truth.

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